Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store on Monday sacked Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt following a share purchasing scandal and as part of a broader reshuffle of his centre-left government.
Huitfeldt, long considered Store’s protege, admitted on August 30 that her husband had bought shares “in much bigger volumes than (she) previously believed” after she became foreign minister in 2021.
The investments, including in the defence group Kongsberg Gruppen which benefitted from Norwegian state contracts amid the war in Ukraine, had raised questions about possible conflicts of interest.
“I apologise deeply for having made mistakes linked to my impartiality,” the 53-year-old Labour minister said.
A parliamentary committee has opened an inquiry into the affair. Police have however said they see no need to investigate.
“The issue of share purchases and sales is among the reasons for her departure but it is not the only one,” Store told reporters, saying it had been a “difficult decision”.
The prime minister said voters’ distrust, as demonstrated in his Labour party’s poor showing in local elections in early September, had also played a role.
“I believe Anniken’s version that she was not aware” of her husband’s stock trades, he said.
Huitfeldt will be replaced by Espen Barth Eide, who held the post in 2011-2012 and who had until Monday served as minister for the climate and environment.
After the Huitfeldt scandal erupted, it emerged that the husband of Conservative opposition leader Erna Solberg had — also largely unknown to her, she has claimed — carried out thousands of stock transactions while she was prime minister from 2013 to 2021.
According to political watchers, the departure of Huitfeldt is expected to make it easier for Store to go on the offensive against Solberg and reduce her chances, currently seen as high, of reclaiming power in 2025 elections.
Store rejected those claims.